Brexit could cost Scotland 4% of its GPs, claims RCGP

The RCGP in Scotland has claimed that 4% of the country's GPs could be lost because of Brexit.

RCGP Scotland chair Dr Miles Mack (Photo: Pete Hill)
RCGP Scotland chair Dr Miles Mack (Photo: Pete Hill)

The college warned that more than 220 GPs from the European Economic Area (EEA) could be lost if their rights are not secured by the next government.

In a list of demands made on all political parties ahead of next month’s UK general election, RCGP Scotland called for the status of EU doctors to be safeguarded in forthcoming Brexit negotiations. The call echoes earlier warnings from the RCGP that ministers must make safeguarding the GP workforce a priority in Brexit talks.

The Conservatives want a reciprocal deal with the EU on the rights of foreign nationals, while Labour would unilaterally guarantee the right to remain for EU citizens in the UK ahead of negotiations. The SNP government wants more devolved powers so it can protect the rights of EU citizens in Scotland.

GP workforce

The college said the loss of EU citizens from the GP workforce was causing ‘grave concern’ for care, and could affect over 226,000 patients.

RCGP Scotland chair Dr Miles Mack said: ‘To learn that Scotland could face the loss of an additional 4% of its already stretched GP workforce is extremely worrying. We are calling for government to safeguard the GP workforce during international negotiations by guaranteeing the status of healthcare professionals already working in Scotland and the UK.’

A recent workforce survey showed the whole-time GP workforce fell by 90, around 2.4%, between 2013 and 2016. 

The college called on the parties to deliver enough new GPs to overcome a projected deficit of 828 by 2021. The next government should implement a national performers list and reduce barriers to free movement across the UK, it said.

Save general practice

Dr Mack added: ‘Repeated surveys have shown the considerable percentage of GPs in Scotland who plan to soon leave the service as a result of overwork and consistent underfunding. An enormous and urgent effort is required in Scotland to save general practice.

’Both Westminster and Holyrood could hurry to take action now which would ease the situation. The full £500m promised to "GPs and health centres" by the first minister in October could be clearly outlined for the GP service, to show medical students a career with a bright future. Government must safeguard the GP workforce during international negotiations by guaranteeing the status of healthcare professionals already working in Scotland and the UK.

'It must be made as easy as possible for doctors from the EU and other countries to move to the UK and work here. Inexplicably, GPs are not yet on the Shortage Occupation List and placing the profession there as a matter of urgency will ease visa applications for those who do want to come and serve our patients. The Scottish National GPs Performers List should be implemented as soon as possible and bureaucracy reduced to allow free movement of GPs throughout the four nations.

‘These are realistic and achievable solutions which should be at the forefront of politicians’ minds, not only as they prepare their manifestos for the coming general election but also as they continue within their current positions of responsibility. Otherwise, the consequences for patients could be severe at best.’

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